We finally made it into the summer months! Yes, in the northern hemisphere we have began to feel the heat building over the past 2 months, but we now are officially in the summer season.
Living in Buffalo, NY, where the winters are never ending, we long for hot summer days all year. We don’t long for the sun just for tanned skin and outside activities, there is a deeper need for the sun that is ingrained into us. Like many cities in the north, during the winter months we may only see a few days of sunshine. I recall one winter when only 3 or 4 days of sun were recorded over a 3 month period….3 DAYS OF SUN! With this lack of sun we experience int he winter months, you can now image why we long for the sun up north!
As a Mental Health Counselor I see the need for sun in a different light (no pun intended haha). The International Early Psychosis Association reports low levels of vitamin D increase depression and other negative mental health symptoms. I see a significant shift in my clients, and myself, during the winter months, and again a shift in mood as we move into summer months. Depression deepens throughout the winter, and the first few weeks of sunshine there is almost an air of lightness that sets in. Sunshine literally becomes a medication to treat mental health.
Sun as Medicine
For anyone, with significant mental health symptoms or not, the sun can be used as medicine. We need the sunshine for our daily dose of vitamin D, but it can also elevate our mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. How does the sun do this? As we soak up some rays, our skin absorbs vitamin D which as it works its way through our body, increases levels of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is basically the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy. Studies by the The National Institute of Health also reports physical needs for vitamin D to boost your immune system and increase the production of calcium (we all know we are happier when we aren’t sick too!)
How can you use the sun to your benefit? Easy! Make your mental health a priority and take time out of each day to get outside. Take a 10 minute walk, read in a chair, or just choose to sit outside instead of inside wherever you go. These small efforts can have long term impacts on your mental health.
So now time to get off your computer and go enjoy the summer!!
Happy Summer Solstice!